Customer Engagement: How Well Do You Know Your Audience?

Engagement Marketing


The results of our 2017 State of Engagement Report are in, and there’s good news and bad news.

I’ll lead with the positive:

  • 98% of marketers have customer engagement strategies.
  • 82% believe they have a deep understanding of their audience.

What that says is that our customers want to be engaged by brands in meaningful ways, and marketers have gotten the message.

The bad news? More than half of customers think brands could do a better job of engaging them. That’s a serious disparity between how well we think we know our audiences and what our customers have to say on the matter.

1:2 of Consumers-Brand Engagement

Let’s go back to that first stat for a second. Almost all of us are investing in engagement, but many marketers are missing the mark. There are three major reasons why this might be happening, and several potential resolutions to consider—let’s take a look:

1. Marketers are Focusing on Engagement for the Wrong Reasons

Most customers believe that their interaction with brands are primarily transactional in nature, and few customers feel like brands are making an effort to build a relationship with them. This may be the root of the engagement perception disparity.

The number one reason why marketers invest in engagement is to boost conversions, but “buy now!” is a transactional, and frankly, linear goal. And relationships are not linear things.

Think of it this way: you meet someone new and develop a friendship with him. You think your new friend is interesting, but he’s always asking you to invest in his company. Over time, those constant requests will inevitably leave you feeling like he only wants to be your friend because he hopes you’ll eventually invest.

To truly engage customers, the goal of engagement must be to develop a relationship—with all the meandering that brings—and connect in a meaningful, authentic way. I promise it will lead to more revenue in the long run, too.

To do a better job of engaging customers, marketers need to evaluate how they define engagement and create goals along with journey that transcends the “buy now!” impulse.

2. Lack of Executive Buy-In Sinks the Best Intentions

Only 56% of marketers believe company executives are aligned with their engagement goals. The C-suite isn’t as convinced that marketers’ engagement strategies are worth the effort—and that’s with a clear push for conversion attached. Now, your new end goal is building relationships. That’s even less likely to drive executive alignment.

Marketing teams must take charge of educating senior leaders on the importance and benefits of engagement. What works best? Consider:

  • Research on your customers’ behaviors, expectations, and demands.
  • Case studies that highlight the successes of other brands that were focused on relationship-building.
  • Examples of competitors’ engagement initiatives.
  • Internal experiments—even if they’re small in scale—that can produce outcomes to share with leadership.

And, consider your audience: executives want to see the bottom line. That’s not a bad thing. What it means is that it’s important to come with plenty of evidence, bring leadership along in your thinking, and stand your ground with data as you advocate for the right way of engaging customers.

Finally, it helps to find an executive sponsor (like the CMO!) who is aligned with your thinking and can coach your messaging to the rest of the leadership team.

3. Engagement Efforts are Spread Too Thin

There’s a lot of inefficiencies that result from a volume-driven engagement strategy. In the digital world, marketers can be everywhere at marginal cost, so we’re often being pushed to add, “one more channel” or to make “one more send.”

But does this more, more, MORE! approach pay off? Findings from Marketo’s The State of Engagement report show that marketers are investing in almost all channels at higher rates than customers are using them:

Channels Currently Being Used Overall

With finite resources, there is a natural toll on the quality of participation on these channels and, more importantly, across these channels.

Instead, you may be better served to ramp down where you’re saying stuff and focus on what you say—that is how relevant and consistent your message is for the intended recipient. Only 15% of B2B and 16% of B2C customers stated that their lack of engagement was the result of brands not offering engagement on the channels they prefer. On the other hand, more than one-third of B2B customers and more than half of B2C customers stated they weren’t engaged because brands send too much irrelevant content.

Irrelevant Content

Instead of focusing on expanding brand presence across multiple channels, marketers should adopt the right tools to identify their most important channels, measure how effective their efforts on those channels are, and drive consistency and relevancy in the experience across channels.

Closing the Customer Engagement Gap

Though marketers are more focused on engagement than ever before and are more confident in their efforts, customers and buyers still aren’t feeling particularly engaged. To close this gap, marketers need to redefine their engagement goals and metrics, secure leadership alignment, and reprioritize their efforts to focus on the channels and initiatives that truly drive engagement.

How are you measuring and responding to customer engagement? What has changed in your strategy in the last year? I’d love to hear about your findings in the comments.